Legislative leaders cast ambitious vision to grow Alabama’s economy
Special to the Enquirer
The Joint Legislative Study Commission on Renewing Economic Development Incentives held its final meeting Dec. 7 at the Alabama State House before submitting its report to the Governor and Legislature on recommendations for reauthorizing critical economic development incentive programs – the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act. The commission recommends that these incentive programs should be reauthorized before they expire in 2023.
This commission, established by the Alabama Legislature in the 2022 legislative session, includes representation from businesses and industry and is responsible for reviewing existing economic incentives and making recommendations to the Governor and Legislature on those incentives ahead of the 2023 legislative session.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who chairs the commission, said the commission’s findings will be a roadmap for the Legislature on how Alabama can best leverage incentive programs to boost the state’s economy:
“Our goal is simple – we want to have the best incentives not only in the southeast, but in the nation as a whole,” Ainsworth said. “This commission has been diligent in comparing our existing incentives with other states and working with the Department of Commerce to determine how we can expand both new and existing industries. Reauthorizing these programs is going to be essential in attracting high-paying, long-lasting, 21st Century jobs.”
Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) echoed Ainsworth’s sentiments, saying, “Reauthorizing these incentives is going to help Alabamians by allowing us to compete for the best jobs in the country right here in our state. Industries across the country are trying to come here because of our great employees, our low taxes and because of our great quality of life. We want to make sure that, from a competition standpoint, we have the tools needed to bring them here and keep them here.”
Discussions with the Alabama Department of Commerce, industry professionals, and data produced from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama demonstrate that the Alabama Jobs Act and Growing Alabama Act are pivotal tools used by the state’s economic development professionals in successfully attracting businesses to the state.
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said that for Alabama to be able to compete with neighboring states, economic development incentives need to be reauthorized and expanded.
“When you look at the top issues Alabamians care about, economic development and job creation are right at the top of that list. States around our region are all competing with each other to attract jobs and to create economic growth, and we need to make sure that we win those competitions so good-quality jobs will come to our state and our communities,” Reed said. “Alabama is the greatest state in the nation to live and work, and these incentives will play a key role in keeping it that way.”
House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) said something all members, both newly-elected and veteran legislators, have in common is the desire to see Alabama grow and to see every community in (the) state reach its full potential.
“That means seeing meaningful, effective economic development occur around the state which requires us to maintain a low-tax, low red tape environment so that businesses can thrive,” Stadthagen said. “Removing unnecessary obstacles to the creation and expansion of businesses is key to fostering a healthy economy. Large cities and small towns share a desire to grow and that is why an effective economic development plan is so important. Every legislator wants to be a resource to assist every community in their district in this area.
To Stadthagen, success is twofold.
“As we focus on economic development, however, it is important to remember that all economic development success does not come in the form of a newly recruited company. The growth and expansion of existing businesses is as important as the recruitment of new industries and both types of economic development should be held in equal regard,” he added. “We must always remember that every Alabama business, large and small, is an example of the reality of the American Dream.
“As we move forward into this legislative session, we should remain focused on keeping Alabama a great place to do business and a place where the American Dream is not only possible, but probable,” Stadthagen said.
The Commission was tasked with several key objectives:
- Study the economic impact of each of the following:
- The Alabama Jobs Act (jobs income tax credit and investment income tax credit)
- The Growing Alabama Act (tax credit for contributions to economic development organizations);
- Other economic development incentives that are “not actively being used, are ineffective in their current use, or are otherwise identified” by the Commission.
- Perform a cost-benefit analysis of each of these incentives’ impact on the state’s Education Trust Fund Budget.
- Recommend whether to reauthorize and (if needed) to amend the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act.
- Recommend whether to repeal, amend or consolidate any other incentives.
This was the final meeting of the commission before submitting its recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for consideration.